Flint, MI— Master Sergeant Sharon Braun has served in Japan, Iraq, and Africa. But now, she comes to Flint to serve as Flint Community Schools’ first female Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor at Southwestern High School.

Braun began her duties in July, but her real work starts when students return to school on Aug. 4.

“I’m most looking forward to meeting all of my new students. I think that is the most exciting thing for me,” Braun said.

She enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1994 and retired in 2014. During that time, she served as a military police officer, a criminal investigator and worked on a ship on the edge of the Persian Gulf in a support role to the Navy.

After retiring from the military, she moved to Lowell, Mich., where she served as a police officer before accepting a JROTC position at a high school in Kentucky. She spent six years teaching there before moving to Flint.

JROTC programs prepare high school students for leadership positions by focusing on character development, community service, and citizenship.

“We have a set of specific curriculums that we’re required to provide students. However, with that curriculum, what I hope to do with the students, and I’m confident in my abilities, is to be able to provide the foundations and a sense of citizenship, leadership, self-discipline, and a sense of ownership with not just oneself, but with the school, and then on a bigger picture within their community,” Braun said.

Not all students enrolled in the program want a military career, she said.

“It is a leadership-based program,” Braun said. “The misconception is that if you take this class, if you want join this program, you have to go into the military. That is not the case. What we offer are a lot of life skills that, after two years in the program, you will get a certificate of completion in leadership education.”

Approximately 100 students at Southwestern High are currently enrolled in the program, Braun said. While some choose to be in the program for only one year, others enroll for all four years of high school.

“It’s providing the things to young adults that even something as simple as tips on resume writing, public speaking, how to go to a job interview. They are, in my opinion, vitally important,” Braun said.

In addition to leadership development and community service, students take courses on marksmanship, military drills, physical fitness, and orienteering. A combination that Braun calls the “total package.”

She said she has high expectations of both herself and her students.

“We want to ensure that when we are preparing our young adults for their post-secondary goals, whether it’s education, or if it’s the workforce, or whatever it is that they choose to do, we want to ensure that they are going to be successful. So, I want to ensure when they walk in the classroom, that they have high expectations of me,” Braun said.

Though she is the first female to hold this position at Flint Schools, she said she doesn’t see it as “anything grand.”

“The only thing that I want to do, is I want to ensure that I’m having a positive impact with the students, that I have a positive impact on the school, and that positive impact flows over into the community.”

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...